Guest Blog Post by The Creative Group
One of the greatest challenges facing recent grads as they seek their first full-time design job is a lack of professional experience. How can you get a foot in the door with prospective employers if they seek candidates with previous experience? An internship can be an effective way to bridge that gap.
These opportunities allow you to gain on-the-job skills and make valuable connections – they can even lead to full-time opportunities. In fact, more employers than you might think use internships as a way to find prospects for entry-level positions. Advertising and marketing executives surveyed by The Creative Group said the top benefit of offering internships is the ability to identify new talent. The challenge for students is landing a useful internship. A majority of executives said their agency or firm does not offer this type of program.
Here are five tips to help you identify – and land – an internship that supports your career goals:
1. Don’t Dawdle
Start your search early to allow ample time to research companies of interest, connect with your college career center and contact members of your network for leads. Scour job boards and websites geared specifically toward internship seekers and designers, like InternMatch or AIGA’s internship listings.
2. Refine Your Marketing Materials
Like the application process for a full-time design job, most employers require a resume, cover letter and portfolio from intern candidates. Carefully proofread your resume and cover letter, and ask a mentor or professor to review your work to catch anything you missed and check for clarity. Make sure your portfolio is organized and easy to navigate. Show classwork, pro bono pieces or even some personal design projects that demonstrate your range and creative thinking skills. Go for quality over quantity when making your selections – seven to 10 pieces should suffice.
3. Dress To Impress
Have an interview coming up? Invest in a business-appropriate outfit. Even though some companies have relaxed dress codes, you want to make a strong first impression. You gain instant credibility when you’re well groomed and well dressed.
4. Focus On The Employer’s Needs
Emphasize the ways you can benefit the organization, not what you hope to gain from the internship. While good managers want fledgling designers to learn and grow, they don’t have time for excessive handholding. Position yourself as someone who can take direction and will be able to make contributions without constant feedback.
5. Showcase Your Soft Skills
There’s much more to being a successful designer than artistic talent and technical expertise – soft skills matter, too. Hiring managers look for candidates with strong communication and problem-solving abilities. When you go to an interview, be enthusiastic, friendly and polite to everyone (including the receptionist) you encounter from the moment you walk in the door.
For more great tips on advancing your career check out The Creative Group blog.